The latest strike by French air - traffic controllers has grounded an estimated 500 flights and delayed many more – especially connecting the UK with Spain and Italy.
The controllers are stopping work as part of a national strike by public sector workers in France.
Delays built up quickly across Europe. Eurocontrol in Brussels warned of “high delays” at the air - traffic centres in Maastricht and Madrid “due to additional traffic refiling to avoid French Strike”.
The west of France is particularly badly hit, with the control centres at Brest and Bordeaux very short - staffed. Marseille, which controls the southeastern quadrant of France and a large tranche of Mediterranean airspace, is also experiencing “high delays”, according to Eurocontrol.
The worst - affected airline appears to be Ryanair, which has grounded dozens of flights to and from France and many more which cross French airspace.
Ryanair has cancelled 44 flights to and from its main base, Stansted, affecting an estimated 8. 000 passengers.
Three round - trips to Madrid and two to Marseille have been cancelled. French services to Nice, Toulouse, Limoges, La Rochelle, Bergerac, Perpignan, Tours, Biarritz and Carcassonne are grounded, along with Spanish flights to Barcelona, Valencia, Ibiza, Reus, Seville, Palma and Castellon. A single round - trip to Lisbon has also been cancelled.
Many passengers told The Independent they have been unable to contact Ryanair by phone or online using the “live chat” option.
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “Our chat and phone lines are operating as normal, however with a higher volume of traffic due to these forced cancellations, and we are working hard to accommodate all customers.
“We have already processed a significant number of refunds and flight transfers as a result of this unjustified French ATC strike. “
British Airways has cancelled at least 40 flights to and from London airports, including six serving Barcelona and Madrid. Multiple flights to Marseille, Paris, Geneva and Nice are also grounded.
BA has delays of over two hours on departures from Heathrow to Aberdeen, Milan, Prague and Venice. Arrivals from Barcelona, Nice and Pisa are now due to arrive at Heathrow long after midnight.
The last flight of the evening from Gatwick to Edinburgh, due out before 9pm, is now scheduled for the early hours of Wednesday morning
The biggest British budget airline, easyJet, has not been so badly affected so far, but its flights are taking extended routes to avoid French airspace. This is likely to cause delays later in the day.
Many services from the UK to Spain, Portugal and North Africa are using the so - called “Tango” routes over the Atlantic to avoid French airspace. This involves flying west - southwest turning south.
Other flights are taking extended paths to avoid most of the airspace: easyJet flights to Nice from Stansted and Luton flew east to Belgium and Germany, then south over Switzerland and Italy to reach the Mediterranean.
Air France, which has far more flights to and from France than any other airline, has so far been little affected. The Independent has identified only 14 flights cancelled to and from the Paris airports, connecting the capital with Biarritz, Bordeaux, Nice, Pau, Toulon and Toulouse. In addition a few domestic flights not serving Paris have been grounded.
TAP Portugal has cancelled flights between Heathrow and Lisbon.
The pressure group Airlines for Europe (A4E) said: “There has been a 300 per cent increase in air traffic control strikes in France compared with the same period last year:”
Under European passengers’ rights rules, passengers whose flights are cancelled or heavily delayed are entitled to meals and accommodation until they can be flown to their destination – which may be on another airline if the cancelling carrier has no availability for several days.
No cash compensation is payable.
On Wednesday and Thursday, rail workers in France will continue their series of 48 - hour strikes in a dispute over plans for modernisation and competition on the national network.
Eurostar has cancelled two round - trips from London St Pancras to Paris on both Wednesday and Thursday. Passengers are being offered seats on alternative services or full refunds.